I love swimming. When I damaged my shoulder, I thought swimming was out. However, a surgeon said he’d repair it. After surgery, came months of physical therapy. Then I could swim one lap. I could add one lap per week. Getting where I wanted to be took a year.
My anticipated easy win was actually a long, hard-fought victory. When the quick miracle of your hopes becomes longer, harder, and more elusive than you imagined, it’s dispiriting. Like how we feel now.
We thought an inconvenient, but quick quarantine would flatten the curve and then we’d get back to business as usual. Back to school by spring break. Back to church by Easter. Back to normal by now. But that’s not happening.
That’s the Israelites’ situation in our scripture. God had defeated pharaoh, freeing the Israelites from slavery. Good news: They’re out of Egypt. And bad news: They’re out of Egypt. They’re beginning to realize that the easy, instant win they thought God had given them was actually a long, hard march to an eventual victory that they needed to make. So, the Israelites complained: “Moses, we’re hungry! We’re gonna die – because of you!”
So God said: “Don’t worry, Moses. I’ve got this covered. I will cover the camp with quail. I will make it rain bread. That’ll take the heat off you and put the focus on me. Folks will know I am God and they can count on me.”
And God came through: At twilight, quail! And at dawn, when the dew lifted, there was fine, white, flaky frost. And the Israelites said: “Man hu” which is Hebrew, meaning “What is it?” If you Anglicize man hu you get manna. But what the Hebrews got was a bunch of “What the heck is this stuff?” To which Moses answered, “It’s bread! Eat up!”
“Firstly, Moses, this “bread” doesn’t look like bread. We don’t need bread. We need a bus ticket back to the Promised Land. Get God to give us express tickets. Hit fast forward to the happy ending!”
Sometimes the only way out is through. The only way out of the misery of middle school is to go through middle school. You can’t skip it. You gotta do it. Sometimes the only way out is through. Like this pandemic, the only way out is through. To keep doing what we have to do. That’s the only way. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: God will care for us every step of the way. What God did for the Israelites, God will do for us: Give us our daily bread; our daily batch of “What is it?” so we can live.
What has God been giving you during COVID-19 to keep you together, body and spirit? A caring word from a neighbor. A daily walk outside. A loving pet who cheers you up. A laugh. A kindness. A prayer. These are mighty blessings packaged in daily serving-sized portions of grace and life. This is the humble, holy manna; the heavenly means by which we are fed, encouraged, and given strength we need today to live. And tomorrow? The miracle repeats: Daily bread for the journey given again and again for us to make it through this time one step at a time; one day at a time, intimately cared for by our loving God, who continues to lead us all into Life.
One of my Rushville congregants worked in Shelbyville. She was terrified of winter driving. But she found an unfailing way to make the trip when it was hazardous. She’d wait for the snowplow. She’d wait in Shelbyville until the snowplow headed to Rushville: She said, “Some impatient people think the snowplow is slow, but not me. I wait for it, and I follow it. It keeps me safe and takes me home. Wintery driving doesn’t terrify me anymore. I just follow the plow.”
We’ve got a Plow making a way for us as well. That way is strewn with manna. There is bread for the journey. What is it? Open your eyes and see.